Blogs Around The World

Blogs Around The World

  • Sioux County History--Law and Order: Orange City, Iowa

    It may well be hard to believe, but there was a time in Sioux County frontier history when righteousness went to war with sin right here in town taverns, and won. Well, most of the time. Those immigrant Hollanders were not tee-totalers, never had been, no matter how tight their Calvinist collars. Prohibition was a peculiarly American phenomenon, and sometimes absolutely necessary to sustain the common weal of pioneer communities.

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  • Holy Week, Haitian Style

    Last week we enjoyed another Holy Week in Haiti. In a society where there is so much death (a very low average age of death) and new life (a very high birth rate), Holy Week is especially poignant. Zach led a Holy Thursday service. During the service we reflected on the events of Passion Night. On Good Friday, we had an opportunity to climb the mountains outside of Port-au-Prince and meditate on Christ's sacrifice surrounded by fog, green grass and beautiful trees.

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  • The Influence of the University

    We recognize the influence that universities have on our thinking, and we have only to look around us to see the ways in which this influence has directed our society, from religion and morality, to ethics and business, education and entertainment, and beyond. Kuyper’s words are almost prophetic: left to unbelievers and those opposed to a Christian worldview, public opinion, society, and culture will be led in such a direction. Kuyper points out that our role as Christians is to inject a different mode of perceiving and thinking in the university environment.

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  • A Holy Week and an Unholy World

    Holy Week, which culminates with Easter, drags me away from TV and radio for a while. For a few brief hours every day I could live in a new world, one that will become a full reality for me after my death, when I too will experience the resurrection that Christ has made possible. That is what Holy Week does for me and countless other Christians. Weekly church services can do that too, but Holy Week does it in an especially profound and poignant way...

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  • Longing and Living for Peace with Justice

    During November and December 2013, Bangladesh lived a new chapter of its struggle for a just government, freedom, and fullness of life. Burning attacks were often started by majority people against minorities, usually those of Hindu culture. Pathos in Bangladesh was real, and forgiveness—even more than 40 years after their war of independence with Pakistan—still so lacking. But, this week I read this hopeful little blurb...

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  • Look for the Helpers

    I wonder if traditional fascination with Joseph has something to do with our need to enter into the passion story. Each character in the story is a potential entry point in our devotional imaginations. We are often compelled by liturgy to enter the roles of Peter or Judas or Pilate or the angry crowd, and we do so reluctantly, with appropriate shame and guilt. The point of such exercises is to remind us that it was for our sins that he died. In fact...

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  • Initial Thoughts

    I want to share with you all some of my first initial thoughts as I culturally reverse back into Canada. These are completely random because jetlag can confuse the brain: There is way too much perfume being sold at London Heathrow, and I would never buy an expensive handbag sold there. Canada is still cold. I've seen occasional spots of snow, tucked in shady wooded areas or under bridges, but for the most part, I'm walking around in a sweater.  Although, I have thought that I would rather use a hole-in-the-floor...

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  • 7 Words That Changed the World

    In the history of the world these seven words carry more atomic power than the largest nuclear reactor, more force than a tornado ripping through a midwest town, more beauty than a sunset setting over the Pacific ocean, more meaning than any philosophy book, more weight than an elephant on steroids, more life altering capability and world transforming power than the greatest leader, army, or world power. These are the most important seven words ever uttered in the history of the world (past, present, and future). What are these seven words?...

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  • Chocolate Bars in the Rainforest

    Aureliano and his family have made a lot of changes in their lives as a result of what they have learned from World Renew’s agriculture training. They have learned to plant a variety of new crops and farm with techniques that are healthy for the environment. “The trainings have been useful,” Aureliano says, “because now I can plant many different crops on a very small area of land.” One of the most valuable crops Aureliano has learned to cultivate is cacao. On our recent visit to their home, he eagerly brought us to his cacao trees, which were laden with fruit.

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  • Covenant Deal-Making

    Perry Miller, the great American Puritan scholar, makes the point somewhere that covenant theology (the Puritans called it “federal theology,”) really spelled the demise of the Puritan theocracy because it made God, well, understandable. If one lives by the promise of covenant theology—if I’m good, he’ll be good to me—it’s almost impossible not to believe that we aren’t the architects of our own righteousness. If I’m good, I’ll get a Christmas present...

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  • Denial

    “Peter followed at a distance.” This little line comes after the last supper, the betrayal by Judas, praying on the Mt. of Olives, the tussle in the garden with the soldiers, and finally the arrest. “Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.” It's not hard for me to imagine being Peter. And its not hard for me to imagine myself following….at a distance...

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  • Where Are the Nails?

    The ancient Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero once described crucifixion is the “most cruel and horrifying punishment.” According to my study Bible notes in Mark 15, it involved a rough, wooden beam, approximately 30-40 pounds, carried to execution site by the condemned after severe beating. (Sometimes criminals died from the beating before they could be crucified!) Heavy, wrought-iron nails were driven through the wrists and the heel bones to secure the victim to the cross...

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  • Preaching in Pamba PAG

    I preached on the story of Jesus calling Matthew. It was largely about how Jesus came for the lost, and to the chagrin of the Pharisees, spent most of his time with the "sinners" of that time. I ventured to say a word about homosexuality. I made very clear that I believe that homosexual behavior is sinful.  But I also said that as Christians, we need to befriend homosexuals, listen to them, hear about their struggles, and have compassion on them...

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  • Credo

    Ehrenreich is an atheist who caused a bit of a stir by admitting in a new book that many years ago, she did have some kind of quasi-mystical experiences. But whatever those were, today Ehrenreich says that the only religions she has any respect for are the ones with ecstatic mystical rituals--like various religions in Africa, she claimed--that put a person in touch with "god" or the divine in some palpable way. But faith itself?  Belief? Puh-leeze, it's the 21st century. We are so finished with the idea that belief is a way of knowing.

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  • Adoption

    Some time ago, our daughter started asking questions about why she is different. She wanted to know why her hair was different, why her skin was a different colour, and things like that. Adoption doesn’t just belong to my daughter’s story, it belongs to mine, to yours. Being adopted into God’s family means a lot of things of course. It brings us into an inheritance, it gives security of salvation, it brings us into brotherhood with Christ, and it gives us a new legal status before God. All of these things are worth thinking about.

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  • "Jesus Freaks in the Streets"

    God’s Forever Family looks at the astounding marriage of this movement with old-fashioned “born-again” religion. Nothing, Eskridge rightly observes, would seem less likely than this coupling, yet few things have more changed the face of American religion—and with it, American politics and culture. The resurgence of evangelical Protestantism in the 1970s, the rise of the Christian Right in politics with the Reagan presidency in the ‘80s, above all the revolution in church music marked by the ubiquity of the praise and worship style—all these were rooted in... 

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  • The Outrageous Gospel

    Sometimes I wonder if we could sensationalize Bible stories in order to increase Biblical literacy. Given the tremendous amount of juxtaposition in the Bible, it wouldn’t be that difficult to grab peoples attention. You could have headlines like “Shepherd Boy Defeats Giant and Becomes King” or “If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em: Christian Killer Saul Turns Apostle Paul.” The Gospel story would have to be the ultimate Biblical juxtaposition. The story of God becoming man in the person of Jesus Christ practically sensationalizes itself...

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  • A Firefighter's Response to a Sermon on a Firefighter

    The other day I got an encouraging note from a New York State firefighter. He’d watched our firefighter sermon online and left a comment. I followed up and asked him how the worldview espoused in the sermon impacted his work. Here is his response (edited for anonymity); "A fellow firefighter showed me your video after a training night. I was very drawn to it by how much time, research, and interviewing had gone into the video.

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  • Malaria

    Malaria!! It is a dreaded word here and across the world. I have experienced my first case of Malaria since living in Uganda for two and a half years. The night I spent in the hospital with my friend Eve, I got a lot of mosquito bites and I kept thinking, "It is malaria season!" But when I was helping Eve in labor I just didn't care so much! My pain was nothing compared to her pain. Malaria takes about two weeks to incubate, so I waited and just wondered, but I didn't worry so much. Steve and I were in Kampala when it hit me...

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  • 'Hand-on-the-Doorknob' Conversations

    Even though we had been ready to leave only a minute before, we stayed talking for a while – her sharing more about herself, her life and her questions. I was hoping and praying that I might listen well and give whatever care I could. When I described the experience to my husband, he referred to it as a ‘hand-on-the-doorknob conversation'. The conversations that come up, often unexpectedly, as the pastor is getting ready to leave. A question...

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  • "Where God's Glory Flashes"

    In the back of The Oxford Book of Carols, there are a few carols for seasons other than Christmas.

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  • Crazy Beats

    I spent an extended period in my car on Monday, and I ended up listening to the radio. Nothing as elevated as NPR. No, I admit it: Top 40.  As a culture, we may not read much poetry any more collectively, but we do know song lyrics. And as I bopped along to the admittedly hooky beats, I realized how many of the current hits are somewhat mystifying themselves.

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  • Living Faithfully While Connecting with Others

    Last Sunday we wondered together about how believers, who wish to remain faithful to the Lord, ought to live in a world in “captivity/slavery” to the effects of the Fall; how to be faithful in a broken Creation marred by sin, death and suffering? We looked to the people of Israel, who had recently been dragged into captivity in Babylon. While waiting for redemption that may, or may not, come in their lifetime how ought the people to live?...
     

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  • Delight

    Once upon a time I wrote the life story of a Laotian-American, a man named Kong, a man who is a grandfather, a meat-packer, a prison camp survivor, and a self-described “mean dude.” The most important description I could give him today, he tells me, is that he is a follower of the Lord. Throughout his life—even in the decades he’s lived in North America—he considered himself Buddhist. No more. Something happened—a miracle...

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  • Telling Stories

    “Flasher evangelism.” That’s what Bowen calls those abrupt spiritual conversations with a stranger on the street that mark certain evangelistic methods. (See his book Evangelism for Normal People.) Relying on a Margaret Atwood short story, Bowen exposes the way others often perceive our attempts at evangelism as “disgusting,”  if not abusive because of our attempts to suddenly access a deep level of personal intimacy with someone we’ve never met...

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  • IBS in Amuria

    IBS is a program for pastors who are unable to afford going to Bible college or who do not have a good enough grasp of English for going to the Bible College (which is taught all in English). It is also much more accessible because the classes are taught in more rural areas which are easy for the pastors to get to.

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  • Too Much Manure Does More Harm Than Good

    For churches to thrive there also needs to be regular feeding of the people. There also needs to be a balance in what is being fed to the congregation. A farmer in one of the churches I served taught me some invaluable lessons in how to feed the flock. A bit "tongue in cheek" he told me he really appreciated the sermons I preached, but he suggested that I don't feed the whole hayload in one message. I got the hint. This helped me focus...

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  • A Walk Through La Limonada

    The Nicaraguan Cohort of Missioners has been working together through the book Geography of Grace. A central point of the book is that the grace of God pools up—is most evident—in the lowest, most needy places. Today we and the Cohort visited one of those places. La Limonada is a barrio, some would say slum, in Guatemala City. At the outskirts of La Limonada we were met by...

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  • Postcards from Haiti (iii)

    The image I won't soon forget from Haiti's National Museum is a elaborately rigged ball and chain from the nation's horrific dark ages, the days of slavery, an immense, jerry-rigged iron contraption some human being created for another human being to wear, hard as that is to believe.  It's a frame of iron you had to step into to get over your shoulders, a piece of atrocity so unthinkable that even imagining it hung on the shoulders of a human being is nearly impossible. The museum guide wouldn't let me snap a picture.

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  • Timing is Everything (A Reflection on Mark 13)

    What are we to do with all of the confusion about timing in Mark 13? For one, Jesus is talking about events in the lifetime of his contemporaries: the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. But, then he talks about times leading up to that event, times that when you read their description, are clearly being lived today as well. Jesus speaks of the world’s birth pains, earth-shattering power shifts that have already begun but are not yet complete. So keep watch, Jesus warns, because the timing isn’t quite right for the full end of these events; there’s more...

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  • Bayanihan Abounds!

    We came to the Philippines to spend four months with World Renew’s Haiyan disaster response team. We see devastation. We see pain and trauma. We also see amazing resiliency. We see immense gratitude. We see people working very hard. We see “bayanihan.” Bayanihan (buy-uh-nee-hun) is a spirit of communal unity or effort to achieve a particular objective. Neighbours helping neighbours. It is a way of life...

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  • Perspectives Reformees Graduation 2014

    It is always a blessing to witness the completion of a course of training, whether it be from a three-year-long formal institution or an informal course of study. On 29 March, Zach participated in the graduation of 37 students from the Perspectives Reformees of Haiti (PRIHA) Bible Correspondence Course. PRIHA is a ministry of Sous Espwa (the collaboration of CRCNA agencies in Haiti) and is a partnership between Christian Reformed World Missions and Back to God Ministries International...

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  • Ti Gar and Gospel Audacity

    No, the first part of the title of this blog is not a double typographical mistake for “tiger” that mysteriously snuck past the otherwise watchful eyes of the grammar police.  Rather, as Greek-literate students of the New Testament know, it is the Apostle Paul’s first-century equivalent of today’s “Whatever” response found in Philippians 1:18:  Paul had observed (vss. 15-16) that “some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will (and love).” And even though the former were not sincere but filled with “selfish ambition,” seeking to “stir up trouble for him” (vs.

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  • Gearing Up to Discover What's Been Happening with Amaranth in East Africa

    I’m looking forward to an opportunity in April to evaluate the long-term impacts of World Renew’s promotional work on grain amaranth. Starting in 1998, but especially in the years 2006 and 2007, we made a special effort to teach farmers and mothers how to grow and how to prepare grain amaranth for eating. This effort in 2006 & 2007 was made possible by special funding from the Canadian Food Grains Bank...

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  • Abusing the Scandal of Grace

    For years I’ve heard the saying “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Makes sense, right? But lately I’ve been hearing something else–”Love the sinner, hate your own sin.” In other words, don’t try tell someone about the speck of sawdust in their eye until you remove the plank in your own (Matthew 7:3-5). Makes sense. The problem is, is that this is then used as an excuse to allow people to stay where they are at. Don’t judge others. You don’t know what they’re going through. How dare you tell someone else that the way they are living their life is wrong when you’re messed up yourself...

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  • "When Helping Hurts" Teaching in Amuria

    The training was not without a few challenges. My manual needs major editing. I had tried to use simple English when I wrote it, but now I see that I didn't do near enough simplifying. And I'm not sure how much was lost in translation during my lecturing, though I have to give a hearty thanks to my pastor friends who labored so long with me in translating.

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  • Science and Faith: Is Evolution vs. Creation a Big Deal?

    Is the evolution vs. creation debate a significant issue among grad students? Yes. No. By the time someone has arrived in graduate school he/she has generally come to a conclusion regarding what to believe about evolution. Those studying biology at that level usually decide that evolution is the way God formed the world into being. Whatever struggle they might have had on the issue of creation or evolution has generally been resolved. Thus, no, it is not really an issue...

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  • Postcards from Haiti

    Honestly, it can't be worth much, and this is no sales job. It's not a wreck, and on a little car like the Tracker a few bumps and scratches seem par for the course. In Haiti there are thousands just exactly like it. Geo Trackers are everywhere; and, like almost everything else in Port au Prince, they're in various shapes of disrepair. Thousands of Trackers.  I'm serious. A Tracker is not the vehicle of choice because it can't hold two dozen people like the vans and pick-ups their owners have rigged with stadium seating, but no matter. Trackers are all over...

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  • "Set My People Free"

    Scrolling through my pictures of the last two and a half years, I saved some of my best shots in a special file and brought the whole lot to my Team Leader - Dave Commire. (Thanks Dave - so very much!!)  I also sent a touching song, sung by Dara Maclean (I listen to her awesome music almost every day)... and a day later... here is my life, summed up in photos. I am so excited to share this video with YOU...

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  • New Agers Highjacked Meditation and I Am Mad

    The practice of meditation has been hijacked by New Agers and I am mad. Not really that mad; but made enough to write a post about it. Meditation is a Bible word and I will not stand around as New Agers steal it from us (cue: angry mob, shouts, picket signs, screams, crying, and people wearing "I heart meditation" T-shirts for affect). Not to mention, New Age(rs) (and other religions) are using meditation in their religious practice...

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  • Balance in an Un-Balanced World

    Last week, my friends and I had a spirited discussion over email about investing, and the merits of different IRAs, mutual funds, index funds, etc. Over the last year, as we’ve been adjusting to life after seminary, we’ve been talking about this. And talking about what it means to be disciples of Jesus, while also caring for ourselves, and our present (and hopefully future) children. Jesus says that we have been “called out of the world (John 15:19),” and that we belong to Him first and foremost.

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  • The Subtly of Sloth

    Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism tells us that we belong body and soul in life an in death to Jesus Christ. He has paid for our sins, he sets us free, he watches over us. The first answer concludes; “Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.” This is a great faith statement and a very practical way to open a lengthy catechism. It is a reminder that as Christians we can’t just say; “I’m saved! I belong! Praise the Lord!” then sit back and assume God is done with us...

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  • Village Savings and Loans Associations

    This week, I had the opportunity to go with Geofrey, one of KIDO's field staff, when he did a training in a village (Olusai) about VSLAs (Village Savings and Loans Associations). He got the participants involved and was very enthusiastic in his teaching. There are thirteen farmer groups in this village and seven of them already have been trained in VSLA and have savings boxes. In the training, the groups who have already started saving were asked to teach the principles to the others. They also shared the ways that they have benefited through the savings groups...

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  • The End or the Beginning?

    I’ve heard for years (or at least since the early ’90′s) that the world is presently going to H-E-double hockey sticks in a hand basket. The world is a mess and it’s just getting worse. I remember hearing a youth camp back in like ’94 or ’95 that the US culture is just like that of the Roman Empire back during Jesus’ day. They were saying that the world was so corrupt and going south that it was going to be vicious on Christians. It’s been 20 or so years since I heard that. Not much has changed.

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  • The Wardrobe of Easter: White-Hot with Purpose

    St. Paul calls followers of Jesus Christ who have been resurrected with him to live far better. They must be well-ordered in their priorities and white-hot in their motivation. Jesus Christ must be pre-eminent. Paul in Colossians commands: “Whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” He repeats his summons six verses later: “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as serving the Lord….It is the Lord Christ whom you are serving.” (Colossians 3.23)...

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  • Against All Hope

    A week ago this morning we learned about the death of a young man. He was 22 years old, a loyal friend, too young to die. Standing in front of the casket on Monday evening, my faith faltered. I wondered to myself whether everything I profess is true. After all, how incredible is it too believe not only that Justin still lives, but that this lifeless body will one day rise as well? But it must have seemed equally crazy to Abraham and Sarah that they...

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  • The Beauty of the (Reformed) Worship Service

    I was raised in a contemporary evangelical church. It was a wonderful church. I’m thankful for my evangelical heritage. But as a young adult, I met a young lady, who belonged to a Christian Reformed Church. This was my first exposure to the CRC. At first, I wondered about the more “fixed” liturgy. I grew up in a “free church” tradition that was a bit more informal. But it didn’t take me long to really appreciate...

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  • How Fast Are You Going?

    Over 150 miles per hour—that’s how fast I’m going through the Japanese countryside. Through my rain-spattered window, I see soggy rice fields. I see 2-story houses and brown buildings. I see bridges spanning rivers, roads going everywhere, and power lines blanketing the skyline. Then I look for them, but I don’t see them. I know they are there—those Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples... 

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  • This is My Father's World

    “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres..." I love this song. I think it’s a beautiful summary of Reformed doctrine and worldview. But more importantly, I think it’s a beautiful summary of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of the theology I appreciate in this song is how wonderfully it articulates the doctrine of General Revelation...

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  • The Contrasts of Haiti

    Anyone who has visited Haiti knows that it is a land of contrasts: Wealth and poverty, fertile land and desert, celebration and sadness. Perhaps no time during the year is this more apparent than the Mardi Gras season (leading up to Ash Wednesday and Lent). This is the season of Carnival, a four-to-six-week-long time of riotous drinking, rowdy parades and partying. Young men cover their bodies with black residue from rum distillation and march...

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